Many of us have seen State Farm Insurance commercials with the line, “Like a good neighbor State Farm is there.” Like a good neighbor, Trinity Lutheran Church in Marshalltown seeks to be a hospitable and gracious presence in our community.

On the first Sunday after school starts Trinity organizes a neighborhood party in the church-yard with games for all ages, live music, and free food. The neighborhood party is an opportunity for our neighbors, many of which are not a part of a community of faith, to experience the welcome of Christ that seeks to connect people. This annual event grew out of asking the question, “How can we be Christ in our neighborhood?” Trinity was led by the Spirit to offer this gathering of food, music, and games, and the outcome of this is that people have reached out to Trinity in times of illness and death knowing that we would respond to them. This past August a neighbor shared that he has begun chemotherapy and the members at Trinity have been able to offer their prayers and support.

Like a good neighbor Trinity is here in Marshalltown. And we pray for the Spirit to continue to lead us in to our community to share the love of Jesus.

Trinity ash wednesdayTrinity also seeks to be intentional about taking the prayer and blessing of the church into the community. This past year, on Ash Wednesday, we distributed ashes in downtown Marshalltown on Main Street. Despite the bitter cold day many people stopped to receive ashes and a prayer. We also distributed ashes at the local homeless shelter and in the Trinity parking lot across from Anson Elementary School.

As Jolene Jebsen, parish worker for pastoral care, and I distributed ashes at the homeless shelter there was a sense that these folks understood, even if they couldn’t articulate it in traditional faith language, that they were dust – or to be more blunt that they were “dirt” which is how the homeless are often viewed according to the cultural standards of power, position, and possessions that make you a person of worth. The Spirit was leading Trinity to the meek, the vulnerable, and the poor; who are Jesus in our midst.

At Anson Elementary School, which is across the street from Trinity, I went from car to car, distributing ashes and a prayer to 85 parents and children. At one point there were about 25 children lined up on the sidewalk. They approached me taking off their winter hats and lifting up their hair to receive the ashes on their forehead.

By asking ourselves the question, “How do we extend the love of Jesus outside our sanctuary?” Trinity was led by Spirit to organize a way of the cross through downtown on Good Friday. Myself along with other participants, including a retired Roman Catholic priest, carried the cross to various locations and offered a reading and a prayer. The locations included Marshalltown Medical & Surgical Center, Mental Health Center, McFarland Medical Clinic, Youth & Shelter Services, the Police Station, City Hall, the courthouse, and the Fire Station. As this group of pilgrims made our journey with the cross people joined along the way.

Like a good neighbor Trinity is here in Marshalltown. And we pray for the Spirit to continue to lead us into our community to share Jesus and to receive Jesus.

This story was originally featured in the Led by the Spirit Newsletter and was submitted by Pr. Gregg Davison, Trinity Lutheran Church, Marshalltown.